New Biodiesel Production Method Lands Student on GMA and Before Congress

John Davis

krohngma.jpgA student from Augsburg College in Minnesota has come up with a new method of biodiesel that has landed his story on Good Morning America and before the Senate Agriculture Committee.

This story from says Brian Krohn, along with chemistry professor Arlin Gyberg, Krohn’s college adviser, are making biodiesel from non-food stocks like algae:

Their research is drawing attention as prices for soybeans, corn and other commodities climb beyond the reach of some of the world’s poorest inhabitants, partly because of their value in making fuels like biodiesel and ethanol.

“Good Morning America,” the ABC morning news show, taped a segment with Krohn Monday for airing today. On various days this week, he and Gyberg will be in Washington, D.C., to brief U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and the staffs of U.S. Reps. James Oberstar, Collin Peterson and Keith Ellison, all Minnesota Democrats.

Krohn’s research led to the creation of a process of making biodiesel that can use vegetable oils and animal fats that are high in free fatty acids, which usually interferes with biodiesel production, said Gyberg, his adviser.

Soybeans have almost none of these fatty acids, which is why they’ve been favored in fuel production, Gyberg said.

The new process can use oils squeezed from a wide range of sources — from animal fat to common algae to corn mash left over from ethanol production — all with fatty acid content that normally rules them out as sources of biodiesel, the professor said.

In addition to using non-food stocks, the process is faster and cheaper than using soybeans, helping settle part of that food-versus-fuel debate.